The Feminist Trailblazing of Sinéad O’Connor

Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker:

Last week, Sinéad O’Connor took off on an early-morning bicycle trip around Wilmette, Illinois, a pleasant suburb of Chicago. The Irish pop singer—now forty-nine, and still best known for ripping up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live,” in 1992, while singing the word “evil,” a remonstrance against the Vatican’s handling of sexual-abuse allegations—had previously expressed suicidal ideations, and, in 2012, admitted to a “very serious breakdown,” which led her to cancel a world tour. Ergo, when she still hadn’t returned from her bike ride twenty-four hours later, the police helicopters began circling. Details regarding what happened next—precisely where O’Connor was found, and in what condition—have been scant, but authorities confirmed her safety by the end of the day.

I was barely ten years old when O’Connor’s second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” was released in America. I recall tugging my lumpy beanbag chair directly up to the television set so that I could watch the video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” in terrifying proximity to the screen. O’Connor is wearing a black turtleneck, framed close, and standing in front of a black background. The filmic effect is austere, nearly ghostly. “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away,” O’Connor sings, her voice barely betraying a brogue. There are moments when the vocal seems to slip away from her a little, like a phonograph needle jerking out of its groove—this is the strange looseness of the freshly wounded. Like a maimed animal, the mind goes feral.

More here.